In Memoriam: Koko the Gorilla

Koko, the Gorilla Who Bridged the Gap 


Koko, a Western lowland gorilla (born July 4, 1971), could communicate with humans and bridged the gap between human and gorilla, teaching us just how alike our species are.

Koko communicated with humans using American Sign Language (ASL). She knew how to sign 1,000 words, which is about as many words as a 3-year-old human child! After a lifetime of teaching people around the world all about the compassion and empathy of her species, Koko passed away in her sleep at age 46. Koko lived at The Gorilla Foundation, opens a new window, which was founded in 1976 by Francine Patterson in order to purchase Koko from the San Francisco Zoo. The Gorilla Foundation works to preserve and protect gorillas.

If you're interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL), sign up for an online class, opens a new window. American Sign Language originated in the early 19th century in Hartford, Connecticut, and has become one of the most popular sign languages in the world (listen to a Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast, opens a new window about sign language in Martha's Vineyard during the early 18th century).

Want more? Check out a book or a DVD.



Sign Language Made Easy

American Sign Language for Babies & Toddlers

American Sign Language for Dummies